What increases my risk for fecal incontinence?

There are many myths about accidental bowel leakage (ABL), also known as fecal incontinence, and who is affected and at risk. While ABL can sometimes conjure up images of the elderly, 70% of those affected are younger than 60 years old. While age is a risk factor, many people affected by ABL have other common causes. People at risk for ABL include the following groups: 
  • individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic diarrhea, diabetes and obesity
  • new mothers with injured pelvic floor muscles or nerves from strenuous childbirth
  • women and men with pelvic floor conditions or illnesses where muscles and nerves have been damaged
  • women in menopause
  • men who have had prostate treatment

Fecal incontinence is typically diagnosed by your symptoms, a medical history, and sometimes a physical exam. The doctor will need to know how often your symptoms occur and what circumstances surround the occurrences. Various diagnostic tests can help your doctor confirm fecal incontinence and find its cause. Your doctor may examine your rectum with their finger to evaluate the strength of your sphincter muscles and look for problems like rectal prolapse. Your doctor may perform an anal manometry, in which they will use a device known as a manometer to measure the amount of pressure your sphincter muscles are capable of producing. Other tests you might undergo include proctography, proctosigmoidoscopy, anal electromyography, anorectal ultrasonography, and proctography.

Continue Learning about Fecal Incontinence Causes and Risk Factors

How can nerve damage cause fecal incontinence?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MDAnthony L. Komaroff, MD
If nerves controlling the anal sphincters malfunction, proper muscle action is impaired, and fec...
More Answers
What causes anal sphincter damage?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MDAnthony L. Komaroff, MD
In women, the most common cause of sphincter injury is vaginal childbirth. The risk is increased...
More Answers
How does fecal incontinence affect the body?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Fecal incontinence can irritate and damage the skin around the anus. The skin of the anus is delicat...
More Answers
Can impaction from long-term constipation cause fecal incontinence?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MDAnthony L. Komaroff, MD
If hard fecal matter becomes stuck in the rectum -- a situation called impaction -- liquid stool...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.